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CHIPS Articles: Data-Centric Solutions are Changing Navy Recruiting

Data-Centric Solutions are Changing Navy Recruiting
Revolutionary mobile capability for recruiters on the go … and much more
By Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems Sea Warrior Program (PMW 240) Public Affairs Office - April-June 2012
"NRS Modesto unleashed!" That was the reaction of Petty Officer Martin Benitz as he experienced the Navy’s newest mobile recruiting capabilities. The Navy Recruiting Station (NRS) in Modesto, Calif., was one of the first stations to implement the Mobile Recruiting Initiative (MRI), the Navy's revolutionary IT solution for recruiters.

The MRI uses wireless computing with 3G (third-generation mobile communications) connectivity and merges digital data with the Navy Recruiting Command's (NRC) core applications: WebRTools and the Personalized Recruiting for Immediate and Delayed Enlistment Modernization (PRIDE MOD). The result is an effective Web-based capability that allows faster, more ubiquitous prospecting and processing of U.S. Navy applicants.

Previous to the combination of PRIDE MOD and MRI, field-level recruiters could gather only limited information on applicants through a time-intensive process of multiple meetings at the applicant's home or at one of 1,450 recruiting stations nationwide. Each meeting had to be manually scheduled, and all resulting information compiled over time was entered into various systems that were tied to a particular NRS. When an applicant’s information was complete and finally ready for processing, the required forms were faxed to assigned U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) sites.

Administrative personnel then manually transcribed the printed information into both the mainframe-based PRIDE system and the MEPS Information Resource System (MIRS). Since the initial installment of PRIDE MOD in May 2011, however, this legacy process has become history.

The Path to Digital Recruiting

As the information above shows, PRIDE MOD is an integral part of NRC's strategic plan to transition from pre-Information Age systems and processes to digital tools that facilitate anytime, anywhere recruiting. Today's Navy recruiters — roughly 4,500 strong — had been relying on a 1974 Fortran version of PRIDE to process U.S. Navy applicant data. These data are very detailed (e.g., aptitude, academic test scores, color perception, etc.) and were manually entered into PRIDE at many different touch points along the recruiting and accessions process.

Because of this complexity, NRC was incurring numerous processing inefficiencies and escalating costs in an effort to ensure ongoing data quality. For example, each year approximately 2,800 applicants erroneously passed through the PRIDE system and into boot camp. This problem, largely traceable to inadequate data exchange and validation, costs the Navy about $117 million annually.

In addition, accession data accuracy is critical because it determines the job ratings and programs for which an enlisted applicant is best qualified. Last year NRC processed more than 43,000 applicants, resulting in a total of 33,444 accessions. Given this size and scale, information integrity is a top priority.

With Phase I of PRIDE MOD in operation, NRC seamlessly shares accessions data with its business partners and Navy human resources and training systems.

"Before [PRIDE MOD], the accessions workflow was weighted down with phone tag, multiple call backs and other delays," said Kevin Sullivan, NRC chief information officer (CIO). "Now, we’re definitely saving time in transitioning an applicant from civilian to Sailor."

That's because PRIDE MOD is a significantly improved recruit classification and reservation capability that captures enlisted applicant qualifications and then matches them to available ratings, determined by the needs of the Navy and "A" School seat availability.

The system also processes incentives and waivers as required and makes "A" School reservations. Sailors enter "A" School following boot camp to learn the specialized skills required for the duties they will be performing. Finally, PRIDE MOD is enabling Navy recruiters to search for enlisted job quotas based on the inbound recruit's anticipated "ship" date to the Recruit Training Command (RTC) in Great Lakes, Ill., the Navy's only bootcamp.

Some key efficiency benefits resulting from PRIDE MOD are:

• A more seamless, automated process for initiating a Sailor’s Electonic Service Record (ESR);
• Common applicant data across key systems associated with recruiting and accessions;
• Data is entered once, signifcantly reducing enlistment data errors;
• Eliminates faxing documentation and data entry and re-entry by recruiters, processors, classifiers and Defense Department processors; and
• Enables significant progress toward data integration within the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education (OPNAV N1) domain.

Breaking the Language Barrier

Imagine assembling five people of diverse cultures and languages into one room and then asking them to instantly communicate effectively. This analogy sums up the task of the PRIDE MOD technical team.

"In order for NRC's process to be centered around applicants and recruiters — instead of computer systems — our developers needed to make five legacy software systems talk to PRIDE in real time," said Jeff Bowell, recruiting and accessions assistant program manager with PMW 240, the office responsible for PRIDE acquisition efforts.

"PRIDE MOD's data exchanges with partner systems are triggered by various transactions and events. For example, when a recruiter uses PRIDE MOD to project an applicant, the system sends USMEPCOM’s accessions data environment [eSOA/MIRS] a projection qualification and enlistment message. Or, submitting the applicant’s shipping confirmation message to CeTARS (Corporate Enterprise Training Activity Resource System), followed by an enrollment transaction at RTC, triggers PRIDE MOD to send a final strength gain notification to NSIPS," Bowell explained.

The core of the solution involved replacing legacy PRIDE software components with a Navy Marine Corps Intranet compliant application that uses commercial off-the-shelf, service oriented architecture components. The functions and data capture inherent in the recruiting and accessions process were separated into distinct application services accessible via Web interfaces to USMEPCOM, the Navy Education and Training Command (NETC) and Navy Personnel Records Management (PERS-3).

This approach enabled NRC to replace the legacy PRIDE system, where data was embedded in the application, with flexible data exchanges using Navy standards. To support NRC's real-time business process for enlistments, PRIDE MOD allows full Web-enabled communication with its partners across all aspects of the accession process.

The following examples show the seamless data exchange enabled by PRIDE MOD:

• A new applicant record is created in WebRTools to include all the data needed to access an individual in PRIDE MOD and the MEPS service oriented architecture/Integrated Resource System (eSOA/MIRS) accessions data environment.
• Data in WebRTools are electronically forwarded to PRIDE MOD and MEPS eSOA/MIRS, and data exchanges occur frequently and seamlessly between the two systems throughout applicant processing (e.g., recording individual results of aptitude and medical tests).
• Once all the prerequisites for an applicant's enlistment are completed, Navy classifiers use PRIDE MOD to assign a job to the new applicant using the Rating Identification Engine (RIDE) Web service and to select an appropriate date for the applicant to ship to RTC.
• The applicant is announced by PRIDE MOD as "ready to ship" and the processing for shipping takes place within MEPS eSOA/MIRS.
• Once the applicant arrives at Recruit Training Command, PRIDE MOD passes the applicant's electronic record data to NSIPS, CeTARS and WebRTools so all systems have the same information.

Interface Development Challenges and Lessons Learned

Exchanging data from one set of legacy applications to another, particularly when the applications were never designed to interact, is a complex task. Add the lack of a common data structure or definitions to share data, plus random errors associated with years of manual data entry, and a significant challenge awaits any software development team. Furthermore, NRC owns only WebRTools and PRIDE MOD; the other accessions systems are owned by separate commands and are hosted in different geographic regions.

Addressing the size and scope of challenges associated with PRIDE MOD involved 20 months of systems analysis, design and development. The technical team used the popular, domain-independent Extensible Markup Language (XML) and DON standards to format data exchanges with Navy and business partners. In addition, the software development and application hosting teams collaborated on the engineering package to capture the infrastructure hosting requirements of PRIDE MOD and configure the system interfaces.

While restructuring data for different targeted system schemas is a major undertaking itself, the largest challenge to PRIDE MOD proved to be testing the interfaces in a representative operating environment. To effectively simulate live transactions, the software developers needed to build XML "stubs" to mimic data sent to PRIDE from partner systems.

For example, once PRIDE received an applicant's record from WebRTools and sent the record to MEPS, the eSOA/MIRS application would then search for existing data on that individual. Then, an XML stub built by the interface partner containing the individual’s requisite data was returned to PRIDE.

All interface testing proceeded in this way, based on the documentation and business rules provided by the partner system owners. Additionally, differences between documentation and actual code for interfacing Web services necessitated numerous recurring changes to PRIDE's interfaces and then retesting.

Looking toward PRIDE MOD II, all stakeholders are applying important lessons learned from the initial development. First, interface partners are engaging with the technical team early in the process before any application code is generated, and signed internal agreements will support the test management process. Second, the team will establish test instances at each interface site to discover issues associated with Web service transactions and address them early. This will ensure partner systems generate actual error messages if an XML transaction cannot be processed, thereby reducing rework costs and avoiding project delays.

NRC continues to build on PRIDE MOD as an important information technology foundation for "street-to-fleet" recruiting. Future PRIDE MOD capabilities being considered include electronic forms technology, applicant identification via biometrics, workflow management tools for paperless processing, and integration of officer and enlisted active and Reserve component processes.

Whether Navy recruiters are mobile or desk-bound, PRIDE MOD is always ready to hire.

About the Sea Warrior Program

PRIDE MOD is an application within the Sea Warrior Program (PMW 240) portfolio of information technology (IT) systems the Navy uses to recruit, train, pay, promote, move, retire, and support personnel and deliver Distance Support IT to the Fleet. The PMW 240 Program is part of the Navy Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS) which develops, acquires, and deploys seamless enterprise-wide IT systems with full life cycle support for the warfighter and business enterprise.

Sea Warrior Program Public Affairs Office
Email: pmw240_pao@navy.mil
Phone: (703) 604-5400

TAGS: EA, RM, Workforce
Figure 1. PRIDE MOD electronically exchanges data with NRC and four business partners to streamline Navy recruit accessions processing. The graphic shows only
a representative sampling of shared data between systems.
Figure 1. PRIDE MOD electronically exchanges data with NRC and four business partners to streamline Navy recruit accessions processing. The graphic shows only a representative sampling of shared data between systems.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (March 2, 2012) Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Justin Gonzales and Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Brad Woodard, assigned to the U.S. Navy parachute demonstration team, the Leap Frogs, perform a bi plane maneuver during a training day at Brown Field Municipal Airport. The Leap Frogs are based in San Diego and perform aerial parachute demonstrations in
support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy recruiting. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication.
Specialist 1st Class Michelle Turner.
CHULA VISTA, Calif. (March 2, 2012) Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Justin Gonzales and Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Brad Woodard, assigned to the U.S. Navy parachute demonstration team, the Leap Frogs, perform a bi plane maneuver during a training day at Brown Field Municipal Airport. The Leap Frogs are based in San Diego and perform aerial parachute demonstrations in support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy recruiting. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication. Specialist 1st Class Michelle Turner.
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